Exhibitions/ Art Object

Pilate Washing His Hands

Style of Rembrandt (Dutch, 17th century)
probably 1660s
Oil on canvas
51 1/4 x 65 3/4 in. (130.2 x 167 cm)
Credit Line:
Bequest of Benjamin Altman, 1913
Accession Number:
Not on view
Critical opinions of this picture have varied considerably since about 1905, when Wilhelm von Bode described it as "a somewhat abnormal work" by Rembrandt. However, most scholars since the 1940s have dated the painting to the 1660s and assigned it to an anonymous pupil. The composition is reminiscent of mature works by Rembrandt but the Rembrandtesque surface effects fail to convey anything like the master's command of illumination and modelling. The name of his only known pupil of the 1660s, Arent de Gelder, has been put forward speculatively.
[art dealer, Paris, until 1794; sold for £216 to Palmerston]; Henry Temple, 2nd Viscount Palmerston, Broadlands, Hampshire (1794–d. 1802); his son, Henry John Temple, 3rd Viscount Palmerston, Broadlands (1802–d. 1865); his stepson, William Francis, Lord Mount Temple, Broadlands (1865–d. 1888); [Sedelmeyer, Paris, by 1894–at least 1899; sold to Kann]; Rodolphe Kann, Paris (by 1900–d. 1905; his estate, 1905–7; cat., 1907, vol. 1, no. 68; sold to Duveen); [Duveen, Paris and New York, 1907; sold for $280,000 to Altman]; Benjamin Altman, New York (1907–d. 1913)
New York. The Metropolitan Museum of Art. "The Art of Rembrandt," January 21–?, 1942, no catalogue.

New York. The Metropolitan Museum of Art. "Rembrandt/Not Rembrandt in The Metropolitan Museum of Art," October 10, 1995–January 7, 1996, no. 38.

New York. The Metropolitan Museum of Art. "The Age of Rembrandt: Dutch Paintings in The Metropolitan Museum of Art," September 18, 2007–January 6, 2008, no catalogue.

Wilhelm [von] Bode. Studien zur Geschichte der holländischen Malerei. Braunschweig, 1883, pp. 480–81, 579, no. 145, as in the collection of Lord Mount Temple at Broadlands; accepts it as a work by Rembrandt of about 1650.

Eugène Dutuit. Tableaux et dessins de Rembrandt. Paris, 1885, pp. 47, 60, 69, no. 73.

Alfred von Wurzbach. Rembrandt-galerie. Stuttgart, 1886, text vol., no. 224.

Émile Michel. Rembrandt: His Life, His Work, and His Time. English ed. New York, 1894, vol. 2, pp. 106, 239, ill. opp. p. 106, as recently bought by Sedelmeyer; places it about the same time as the "Denial of Saint Peter" (Hermitage, St. Petersburg), which he dates about 1656.

Illustrated Catalogue of 100 Paintings of Old Masters . . . belonging to the Sedelmeyer Gallery. Paris, 1894, pp. 39–40, no. 32, ill. opp. p. 40, states that it was bought by the 2nd Lord Palmerston from a Paris dealer in 1794.

Malcolm Bell. Rembrandt van Rijn and His Work. London, 1899, pp. 82, 162.

Wilhelm [von] Bode. Gemäldesammlung des Herrn Rudolf Kann in Paris. Vienna, 1900, p. III, pl. 11.

Gustav Glück. "Die Gemäldesammlung des Herrn Rudolf Kann in Paris." Die Graphischen Künste 23 (1900), p. 90.

Wilhelm [von] Bode. Gemälde-Sammlung des Herrn Rudolf Kann in Paris. Vienna, 1900, pp. VII–IX, ill. p. III (gallery photograph).

Wilhelm [von] Bode with the assistance of C. Hofstede de Groot. The Complete Work of Rembrandt. Vol. 7, Paris, 1902, pp. 23–24, 126, no. 552, pl. 552, calls it a "somewhat abnormal work" of Rembrandt and dates it about 1665; states that there is a copy of the head of Pilate by Dietericy [Dietrich] in the Roumiantzoff [Rumjanzoff] Museum, Moscow, and a pen drawing for the picture in the Six collection in Amsterdam.

Adolf Rosenberg. Rembrandt, des Meisters Gemälde. Stuttgart, 1904, p. 263, ill. p. 248.

Carl Neumann. Rembrandt. 2nd ed. Berlin, 1905, vol. 2, p. 528.

Adolf Rosenberg. Rembrandt, des Meisters Gemälde. 2nd ed. Stuttgart, 1906, p. 426, ill. p. 379.

Catalogue of the Rodolphe Kann Collection: Pictures. Paris, 1907, vol. 1, pp. V, 69, no. 68, ill. between pp. 68 and 69.

Marcel Nicolle. "La Collection Rodolphe Kann." Revue de l'art ancien et moderne 23 (January–June 1908), p. 197.

Adolf Rosenberg. Rembrandt, des Meisters Gemälde. Ed. W. R. Valentiner. 3rd ed. Stuttgart, 1909, p. 588, ill. p. 468.

Alfred von Wurzbach. Niederländisches Künstler-Lexikon. Vol. 2, Vienna, 1910, p. 407, regards the attribution to Rembrandt as extremely questionable.

Handbook of the Benjamin Altman Collection. New York, 1914, pp. 7–9, no. 3.

Wilhelm R. Valentiner. "The Rembrandts of the Altman Collection: I." Art in America 2 (August 1914), p. 351.

"The Altman Collection in the Metropolitan Museum, New York." Art and Progress 6 (January 1915), p. 81.

C[ornelis]. Hofstede de Groot. A Catalogue Raisonné of the Works of the Most Eminent Dutch Painters of the Seventeenth Century. Ed. Edward G. Hawke. Vol. 6, London, 1916, pp. 99–100, no. 129.

Wilhelm R. Valentiner. Rembrandt wiedergefundene Gemälde. Stuttgart, 1921, p. 127, states that another, somewhat earlier version of this work is in the collection of F. Güterbock in Berlin.

Fritz Saxl. "Aus der Werkstatt Rembrandts." Kunstchronik und Kunstmarkt, n.s., 32 (January 1921), p. 323, fig. 2.

François Monod. "La Galerie Altman au Metropolitan Museum de New-York (2e article)." Gazette des beaux-arts, 5th ser., 8 (November 1923), p. 308, ill. p. 307, relates it to a drawing of Christ before Pilate in the National Gallery, London.

John C. van Dyke. Rembrandt and His School. New York, 1923, pp. 113–14, as by a pupil of Rembrandt, suggesting Koninck or a member of his workshop.

D. S. Meldrum. Rembrandt's Paintings. London, 1923, p. 204, pl. CCCCXLVI.

Carl Neumann. Rembrandt. 4th ed. Munich, 1924, p. 566, fig. 172.

Wilhelm R. Valentiner. Nicolaes Maes. Stuttgart, 1924, pp. 39–40.

E. W. Bredt. Die Rembrandt-Bibel, altes und neues Testament. [3rd ed.]. Munich, [1926], p. 142, ill. p. 87.

W. R. Valentiner. "Important Rembrandts in American Collections." Art News 28 (April 26, 1930), p. 4, suggests that Pilate is a self-portrait.

Wilhelm R. Valentiner. Rembrandt Paintings in America. New York, 1931, unpaginated, no. 166, pl. 166.

J. L. A. A. M. van Rijckevorsel. Rembrandt en de Traditie. Rotterdam, 1932, p. 16, fig. 13.

Wilhelm R. Valentiner. Die Handzeichnungen Rembrandts. Vol. 2, New York, [1934], p. 388.

Hans Tietze. Meisterwerke europäischer Malerei in Amerika. Vienna, 1935, p. 337, pl. 178 [English ed., "Masterpieces of European Painting in America," New York, 1939, p. 321, pl. 178].

A[braham]. Bredius. Rembrandt Gemälde. Vienna, 1935, p. 26, no. 595, pl. 595.

William M. Ivins Jr. "The Art of Rembrandt." Metropolitan Museum of Art Bulletin 37 (January 1942), p. 3.

Julius S. Held. "Rembrandt: The Self-Education of an Artist." Art News 40 (February 1–14, 1942), p. 28, as "certainly not painted by Rembrandt himself".

Julius S. Held. "Rembrandt's 'Polish' Rider." Art Bulletin 26 (December 1944), p. 265 n. 163, states that "while largely a work of one of Rembrandt's pupils, [it] is clearly based upon a characteristic idea of the master himself".

Richard Hamann. Rembrandt. Potsdam, 1948, pp. 414, 416, fig. 279, dates it about 1660 or 1661.

Otto Benesch. The Drawings of Remrandt. Vol. 6, London, 1957, p. 399, under no. A82, p. 409, under no. A119, states that the drawings in the British Museum, London, and Simon collection, Zurich (formerly Six collection, Amsterdam) are obviously sketches for this picture; notes that because the MMA work is no longer attributed to Rembrandt, his authorship cannot be claimed for the drawings.

James Henry Duveen. The Rise of the House of Duveen. New York, 1957, p. 233.

Heinrich Zimmermann. "Ein neu entdeckter Rembrandt." Weltkunst 29 (July 1, 1959), pp. 7–8, ill. (overall and detail), compares it with a portrait of an old man in a private collection in Munich.

J. G. van Gelder. "The Literature of Art: The Drawings of Rembrandt." Burlington Magazine 103 (April 1961), p. 151.

Jakob Rosenberg. Rembrandt: Life & Work. rev. ed. London, 1964, p. 371, lists it among works not accepted as authentic.

Hermann Kühn. "Untersuchungen zu den Malgründen Rembrandts." Jahrbuch der Staatlichen Kunstsammlungen in Baden-Württemberg 2 (1965), p. 202.

Kurt Bauch. Rembrandt Gemälde. Berlin, 1966, p. 49, as painted by a pupil to Rembrandt's design, about 1660.

Paolo Lecaldano in L'opera pittorica completa di Rembrandt. Milan, 1969, ill. p. 131, includes it among works of doubtful attribution.

Horst Gerson, ed. Rembrandt: The Complete Edition of the Paintings. By A[braham]. Bredius. 3rd ed. London, 1969, p. 611, no. 595, ill. p. 544, expresses doubt that it was painted by an artist in Rembrandt's circle, and suggests a Haarlem painter.

Francis Haskell. "The Benjamin Altman Bequest." Metropolitan Museum Journal 3 (1970), p. 263.

Carter B. Horsley. "Who Really Painted It? The Met's Downgrading of 300 Works of Art." Art News 72 (March 1973), p. 48, ill. p. 49.

Werner Sumowski. Gemälde der Rembrandt-Schüler. Vol. 4, Ch. Paudiss–Anonyme. Landau/Pfalz, 1983–[94?], pp. 2875, 2957, no. 1957, ill. p. 3024, as by an unknown pupil (color).

Werner Sumowski. Gemälde der Rembrandt-Schüler. Vol. 5, Nachträge Ortsregister. Landau/Pfalz, 1983–[94?], p. 3367.

Denys Sutton. "Aspects of British Collecting, Part III: XI Paris–Londres." Apollo 119 (May 1984), p. 339.

Paul Jeromack. "Être Rembrandt ou ne plus l'être." Connaissance des Arts no. 441 (November 1988), p. 107, ill. (color).

Walter Liedtke. "Dutch Paintings in America: The Collectors and Their Ideals." Great Dutch Paintings from America. Exh. cat., Mauritshuis, The Hague. Zwolle, The Netherlands, 1990, fig. 36 (Altman gallery installation).

Walter Liedtke. "Some Paintings not by Rembrandt in the Metropolitan Museum." Rembrandt and His Pupils. Ed. Görel Cavalli-Björkman. Stockholm, 1993, pp. 135–36, fig. 9, notes that it is "routinely associated with Aert de Gelder or his studio" and suggests that it might be by Jacob van Dorsten, but states that it is "best described as a work from Rembrandt's circle, probably during the 1650s".

Walter Liedtke in Rembrandt/Not Rembrandt in The Metropolitan Museum of Art: Aspects of Connoisseurship. Exh. cat., The Metropolitan Museum of Art. Vol. 2, "Paintings, Drawings, and Prints: Art-Historical Perspectives."New York, [1995], pp. 32, 130–31, no. 38, ill. (color), as by a follower of Rembrandt; dates it 1660s.

Meryle Secrest. Duveen: A Life in Art. New York, 2004, pp. 280, 476.

Catherine B. Scallen. Rembrandt, Reputation, and the Practice of Connoisseurship. Amsterdam, 2004, pp. 208, 296, 363 nn. 97, 99, pp. 374–75 nn. 28, 49, fig. 53.

Esmée Quodbach. "The Age of Rembrandt: Dutch Paintings in The Metropolitan Museum of Art." Metropolitan Museum of Art Bulletin 65 (Summer 2007), pp. 31–32, 35, fig. 32 (Altman gallery photograph).

Walter Liedtke. Dutch Paintings in The Metropolitan Museum of Art. New York, 2007, vol. 1, pp. xi, 64 n. 9; vol. 2, pp. 708, 771–74, no. 175, colorpl. 175, states that "it seems hasty to dismiss the idea that the painting might be an early work by De Gelder," but notes that it "could have been painted by an unknown pupil or an artist working outside Rembrandt's workshop".

George S. Keyes in Rembrandt in America: Collecting and Connoisseurship. Exh. cat., North Carolina Museum of Art. New York, 2011, pp. 73–74, 84 n. 41.

A copy of this picture was no. 59 in the Veiling sale, Paris, December 14, 1912.
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